Monday, October 19, 2009

It's a SuperFreakoDistorted World, Afterall

Only yesterday, I thought I would be leaving the topic of SuperFreakonomics with just the one post I had made. Then I read this from Bob Murphy.

What has me fascinated by this whole thing, as the emails and posts continue to fly, is that it is happening now and not years ago. Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong and the rest of the blogsphere have come to life.

That is, economists in the global warming camp have suddenly discovered that Steven Levitt's/Stephen Dubner's work is, shall we say, a bit sloppy. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, as I wrote back in May 2005 about their sloppiness in their first book, Freakonomics.
But there is more, a lot more, Levitt/Dubner seem to have a problem with, ah, accuracy.

In the current brouhaha, Joseph Romm has Dubner nailed in not correcting a bad quote in SuperFreakonomics. But, this is not the first time there has been an accuracy problem with some part of the SuperFreakoDuo.

When Ben Stein was fired by NYT in August I wrote

I wonder if this will have any impact on NYT blogger Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, and his lying ways:

...the two parties outlined a settlement that requires Mr. Levitt, who is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the best-selling book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything, to send a letter of clarification to John B. McCall, a retired economist in Texas. Mr. [John]Lott’s lawsuit alleges that Mr. Levitt defamed him in a 2005 e-mail message to Mr. McCall....

In that message, Mr. Levitt criticized Mr. Lott’s work as guest editor of a special 2001 issue of The Journal of Law and Economics that stemmed from a conference on gun issues held in 1999.The letter of clarification, which was included in today’s filing, offers a doozy of a concession. In his 2005 message, Mr. Levitt told Mr. McCall that “it was not a peer-refereed edition of the Journal.” But in his letter of clarification, Mr. Levitt writes: “I acknowledge that the articles that were published in the conference issue were reviewed by referees engaged by the editors of the JLE. In fact, I was one of the peer referees.”Mr. Levitt’s letter also concedes that he had been invited to present a paper at the 1999 conference. (He did not do so.) That admission undermines his e-mail message’s statement that Mr. Lott had “put in only work that supported him.”
Re-read the above quoted paragraphs. Look at the size of the lies Levitt was throwing around. It wasn't a refereed journal, Levitt says. Not only was it a refereed journal, Levitt was a referee!
He charged Lott with only putting in those who supported Lott's thinking at a 1999 conference, yet Lott offered Levitt the opportunity to present at the conference! Yikes.

In short, these guys are two comedians. You don't get anything close to logic or straight answers from them. But rather than Levitt throwing all kinds of lies in an email attacking John Lott causing a blogosphere awakening. Levitt/Dubner skated an alternated among themselves between sloppy logic and lies. That is they skated until they made the mistake of doing their sloppy work against the politically correct global warmists. Hey, slander John Lott, no big whoops. I mean really, really make whoppers and no big deal. But, go after global warming, and suddenly all of Levitt's and Dubner's warts and pimple are easy for all to spot.

Bring out the heavy guns Krugman and DeLong. Paul and Brad, where were you years ago?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I never saw the full details of the John Lott fiasco. I knew Levitt said Lott's findings "haven't been reproduced" or something in Freako, leading the reader to believe that others couldn't do the same econometrics that Lott did. But no, what Levitt meant was that researchers using different data sets came up with different answers (showing that guns are bad and scary).

    However, I should clarify that I think Joe Romm is exaggerating how bad the Freako guys were on this one. At this point I think both sides are being merciless and bending the truth to paint the other as the wrongdoer.